Thursday, January 21, 2010

Arks, Arcs, and Noah's Sunspot Dome

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Noah continued to build his ark three doors down.

The Kabbalahists around the corner thought Noah was crazy, but he didn't need their approval. He knew it was coming, so he continued to follow what he knew. The storm was coming. He had to prepare and gathered all the necessary supplies, and more importantly, a cache of weapons to ward off looters, loosely formed criminal gangs, roving cannibals and rapists, and other miscreants who happen to survive the Big One.

Noah was building his ark not because of the recent rain that dumped on Southern California... rather he built the ark for when the earthquake of all earthquakes wipes out all of humanity in California. If he survives (and whatever family members and pets do as well), he'll need his ark because he expects most of the city and Southern California to collapse into the ocean forming several tiny islands. The new California Islands, one of which, he hopes to safely dock and claim as his own.

Noah always wanted his own secluded island.

Next up will be the dome. Over his house. To help deflect the sunspots. Those are coming too, probably sooner than the big quakes.

"And when the sunspots do," he said, "you don't want to be on a cellphone. Your brain will fry. That's why the aliens stay underground. The sun. It's too powerful. They used to look like us, but they had some sort of gene defect that made their skin shrivel up like a raisin. That's why the aliens are grey."

He wondered if I thought he was crazy. I told him, mostly no. Noah is a visionary. His view of the world is bleak. Probably has his own 2012 channel on YouTube. I don't mean to judge people, but some folks have wandered too far off the reservation, while others are firmly planted -- yet can't see or comprehend anything outside of three mile radius of their home.

Noah is a crackpot. Or genius. Depends on who you talk to, on how you view the world. Noah is my most prepared neighbor on the block, or the "crazy guy" that we tell stories about to KTLA reporters.

You just never know. About anything. If I could accurately predict the future, I would make substantially more money as a sports gambler and securities/commodities trader.

* * * * *

The writing sessions this week have been long. 12 hours. 13 hours. 10 hours. Stamina is strong. My concentration is better. My editing skills are sharper. I'm locked in. Focused. Blocking out all the chatter and distractions. Zoned in on the task. Fine tuning the bigger picture.

I'm more aware of my most common errors and those have been jumping right off the pages. Over the last two days I re-wrote a chapter entirely. It seems as though I'm cutting more and more poker scenes that slow the pacing down.

Less is more, right?

I used to hear stories about writers or painters or musicians who supposedly work three, five, eight, ten years on a single piece of art... a film, a painting, an album, a novel, a screenplay, whatever. I always thought how absurd it was that someone would be toiling on one thing for so long. They would go crazy. Want to die. Get addicted to something. Pills. God. Taco Bell.

And then... it happened to me.

Jesus, I'm hoping to finally publish Lost Vegas a few months shy of five years from the day when I was first approached to write a book about my experiences in Las Vegas. Half of a decade. I've been chasing a fucking ghost. Five years? One of my buddies is on his third of three wives in that he met in the same time span. He had three weddings and two divorces. And I can't finish this fucking book.

As the original story goes, one publishers expressed interest and I cranked out a quick 75,000 words... the original draft... but that book deal fell through and thank God. I was not ready. The material wasn't ready. I had yet to get a firm grasp on Las Vegas and needed more time. The draft sat idle. Life intervened. It was more lucrative to write on Tao of Poker and for other people. Books are becoming extinct like dinosaurs and New Wave bands.

No one reads anyway. What's the point? The hippies will only get pissed because I'm killing trees buy printing actual books with pages filled with endless off-color remarks about homosexuals, Jews, and retards. The zealots on the right will scorn me for denouncing organized religion and glorifying internet gaming, illicit drug use, and sexual deviancy.

I can't win.

Thank God for the French. They're the only ones bold enough to offer me a book deal. And that was before the book was done... in English. They haven't even read it in English yet, let alone the French translation. That's faith. I couldn't be more inspired. It's a sincere honor because Europeans actually read books. Real books too. None of this teenage vampires or Oprah book of the month shit. Real books.

Over the last few years, I always seemed to burn out around the same time every year. I get in one of those "fuck the world" modes when I feel the urge to just lock myself in a room and creative something. On all but one occasion, I tinkered with the Las Vegas book. I kept re-writing the beginning parts. As years passed, I had more material to draw upon and it seemed as though at every pass I spent 50% of my time toiling on the original section and the other half of the time penning new material.

I had stories. Plenty of them. What I never had was an ending. Life ends when you die. Everything else is just continues. Without some sort of conclusion or story arc, I really didn't have anything concrete. But then a couple of things happened in the last part of 2008. I mustered up the courage to move forward with the book and hoping that I'd figure out the end as I went along. But then I got a bit of luck, on a drive leaving Las Vegas and heading towards LA of all places... I found an ending. Right around the state line of Nevada and California. A symbol. An epiphany. The elusive ending fused together in my head.

Now all I had to do was write the story.

And I did. But I had too much material but unable to cut. I invested too much, energy and money into that monster manuscript. I was that character from Wonder Boys. I set out to write a 200 page book and ended up with 2,000 pages. OK, maybe not that much, but a good 1,000 pages.

I essentially became one of those head cases on the show Hoarders. Instead of packing my house with garbage, empty boxes, and stuffed giraffes... I was cluttering my manuscript with unnecessary shit. Like those old ladies who can't bare to throw away a stainless steel soup ladle, I found it difficult trying to slash words, sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters. Thousands of words needed to go. More than I ever imagined.

That was a good thing. It's easier to edit down then fall short of the mark and not have enough. The hard thing was that I had no idea what to cut. Everything seemed important to me. That's when the German Butcher stepped in and whacked it up and pointed out areas where I needed to rewrite and other spots where I needed to expand.

I guess that's the golden rule of show business... leave the audience with them wanting more.

As I'm writing this, it makes me want to go back and cut even more. Shit, I might just do that. The German Butcher would love that. And since we're self-publishing that's a few cents per book that we save on printing fees.

Less is more. Time to channel my inner Hemingway. I'd love to eat a fistful of Adderall and finish this book by the end of the month. Sounds like a lovely idea.

By the way, you can follow Lost Vegas on Twitter. It's @LostVegasBook.

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